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Do scientists get fundamental research ideas by solving practical problems?

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  • Chiara Franzoni

Abstract

We discuss the problem-solving nature of scientific activity and maintain that contributions made in the form of improved methodologies, new technologies, and instruments for research are, and will increasingly become, central in experimental sciences and in fields traditionally the realm of pure intellectual speculation. The contribution of scientists to the development of new technologies and techniques for research purposes largely exceeds their contribution to developing technologies for industrial purposes, although the former easily blurs into the latter. We verify the effect of both types of contributions on the productivity of a sample of American star physicists, and show that improving research technologies always boosts the productivity of scientists, whereas developing industrial technologies is beneficial only when the technology stems from a research instrument. Copyright 2009 The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Associazione ICC. All rights reserved., Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Chiara Franzoni, 2009. "Do scientists get fundamental research ideas by solving practical problems?," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 18(4), pages 671-699, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:indcch:v:18:y:2009:i:4:p:671-699
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/icc/dtp021
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    Cited by:

    1. Antonio Della Malva & Martin Carree & Enrico Santarelli, 2011. "Universities, Entry and Growth," ERSA conference papers ersa10p554, European Regional Science Association.
    2. Stephan, Paula E., 2010. "The Economics of Science," Handbook of the Economics of Innovation, Elsevier.
    3. Martin Carree & Antonio Malva & Enrico Santarelli, 2014. "The contribution of universities to growth: empirical evidence for Italy," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 39(3), pages 393-414, June.
    4. repec:kap:sbusec:v:48:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11187-016-9795-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:kap:jtecht:v:43:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s10961-015-9414-y is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Palmberg, Christopher, 2007. "Modes, Challenges and Outcomes of Nanotechnology Transfer - A Comparative Analysis University and Company Researchers," Discussion Papers 1086, The Research Institute of the Finnish Economy.
    7. Conor O'Kane & James Cunningham & Vincent Mangematin, 2012. "Underpinning Strategic Behaviours and Posture of Principal Investigators in Transition/Uncertain Environments," Working Papers hal-00794944, HAL.
    8. Conor O'Kane & James Cunningham & Vincent Mangematin, 2012. "Underpinning Strategic Behaviours and Posture of Principal Investigators in Transition/Uncertain Environments," Working paper serie RMT - Grenoble Ecole de Management hal-00794944, HAL.
    9. Walsh, John P. & Huang, Hsini, 2014. "Local context, academic entrepreneurship and open science: Publication secrecy and commercial activity among Japanese and US scientists," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 245-260.

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